SUN Hockey Pool

Kipper nets vital victory

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

CHICAGO -- As starts go, it was hardly the way Miikka Kiprusoff envisioned.

The Calgary Flames netminder, with his team desperately needing a victory, surrendered a first-shot goal yesterday afternoon against the Chicago Blackhawks.

But Kiprusoff rebounded exactly the way his team needed, stopping 34 shots -- 16 of them in the third period -- in the Flames to a 4-2 win.

"It's a tough goal, should stop those, but you can't worry about it too much," Kiprusoff said. "It's a 1-1 game at that point and that's what goalies have to do: Forget and keep working.

"It worked out for us. We were able to play a really strong game. We really needed these points."

With Calgary's playoff ticket not yet punched, the margin for error this time of the season is razor thin.

"Kiprusoff's importance can't be overstated. For him, that was not vintage play on his behalf, but he responded after that," said head coach Mike Keenan.

"He did a super job."

Especially with the way the young and talented Blackhawks worked. All through the game, Chicago created traffic in front of the net in the hopes of cashing in through screens or deflected shots.

"I knew that is what they do," Kiprusoff said. "It's what I was told before the game -- it would be a lot of traffic and tips and they have skilled guys that can do that. I was waiting for that.

"There's not too much you can do, challenge and play big. You can't try to catch the puck and be ready to react for the rebounds."

Kiprusoff's play was appreciated by his teammates.

"He was big for us today. He's been big for us all year," said defenceman Dion Phaneuf. "Especially at the end there, it was a little scrambly with a couple of short-handed situations. He definitely stood in there for us.

"They put a lot of traffic to the net and a lot of pucks to the net. It's our job to let him see the puck, and when sees it, he'll stop it."

It was a sentiment echoed by forward Owen Nolan, who insisted the team never feared Kiprusoff would wilt amidst the third-period push.

"We wanted to keep everything to the outside. We knew they were gonna come out hard, but we had enough goals to protect the lead, and we felt if we kept them to the outside, with Kipper in net, he'll stop all those pucks," Nolan stated. "They got one goal, but I don't feel they had enough pressure to get enough goals."

Kiprusoff now has a 4-0 record when returning to action following a Curtis Joseph start.

Yesterday was Kiprusoff's 300th career NHL game.

"Guys were all over me before the game. Getting old," he joked. "The guy beside me has a few games. Maybe he can give me some tips."


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